Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Food Nationalism

Some countries are hoarding food items to ensure supplies for their population as the virus crisis deepens. The export curbs could prove especially harmful for poorer nations that survive on imports.

The export curbs take place against the backdrop of panic buying that has left supermarkets with aisles of empty shelves. The scarcity is not due to a shortage of supplies but to logistical hurdles created by measures to contain the pandemic.

Experts fear restrictions on the exports of wheat and wheat flour could lead to higher prices of essential items such as bread, proving lethal for many of the poorer countries in Africa that rely on imported food. High bread prices are known to have sparked riots and caused political instability, especially in Africa.

"Since most poor countries, many of them in Sub-Saharan Africa, are net food importers, sudden price hikes will almost inevitably raise poverty and hunger, because these countries have very limited capacities to respond to shortages and price rises e.g. by drawing down buffer stocks," Rainer Thiele of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy told DW.

The world's biggest wheat exporter wants to limit grain exports to protect domestic supplies as the fast spreading coronavirus pandemic disrupts supply chains globally. The Russian Agriculture Ministry has proposed to limit the exports of some grains, including wheat, to 7 million tons for April-June. 

In Russia's neighbor, Ukraine, a major exporter of grain and vegetable oils, the government is monitoring wheat exports daily and has said it would take appropriate measures, if required. The government in Kyiv has been facing demands from bakers and millers to curb grain exports and prevent bread prices from soaring if the coronavirus crisis worsens.

Kazakhstan has banned exports of wheat flour, buckwheat, sugar, sunflower oil and some vegetables, including carrots and potatoes, until at least April 15 as it seeks to build stockpiles to deal with the coronavirus emergency. The Central Asian country, one of the world's biggest exporters of wheat flour, is a crucial supplier to nations such as Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. The ban on wheat flour could affect bread companies around the world.


The Southeast Asian country, which has so far succeeded in limiting the spread of the coronavirus, last week temporarily suspended new rice export contracts. The world's third-largest rice exporter said it was ascertaining if it had sufficient domestic supplies to cope with the pandemic. The Philippines, China and countries in Africa are among the biggest buyers of Vietnam's rice.

The East European country has banned the export of sunflower oil and other goods as a precautionary move.

No comments: